Like the rest of us, American Idol was forced to go from home earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and according to year-end social rankings from Talkwalker Social Content Ratings, you were definitely there for it.
Data from the company released on Wednesday (Dec. 16) shows that Idol came in at No. 3 for the year for all prime-time/late night shows, just behind ESPN’s popular Michael Jordan series The Last Dance and WWE Monday Night Raw.
Adam Davis, Idol‘s supervising digital producer tells Billboard that the numbers reveal that Idol achieving its highest-ever ranking on the list — along with nabbing the No. 1 spot for the most social prime time reality series of 2020 — is no surprise. “Idol really set itself up this year because of our fan base, which gravitated to everything the Idol talent did this year and how we did it from home,” says Davis.
According to the Talkwalker’s Social Content Rating figures, Idol was the most social TV series on broadcast networks last season, with 27 million total social interactions across new episodes — more than double the interactions generated by such reality juggernauts as Keeping Up With the Kardashians, eight million more than The Voice and almost 19 million more than RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Judge Katy Perry also ranked high, coming in as the No. 1 most engaging talent for 2020 primetime series TV according to Talkwalker, with more than 16 million engagements, ahead of Fox News’ Sean Hannity and with 12 million more than former Idol judge Jennifer Lopez. Talkwalker, described as the leading social engagement and video performance measurement solution, acquired Social Content Ratings from Nielsen in July 2020.
“Talent is becoming an increasingly important component to program promotion. Talkwalker Social Content Ratings’ unique methodology allows for the comprehensive measurement of TV talent’s social efforts around programs, helping the media industry optimize their own social strategies and quantify the overall impact of talent at scale,” says Talkwalker’s head of media Sean Casey.
In its third year on ABC after a 15-year run on Fox, Davis says one of the factors that helped push the show to the top was the close work his team did with the contestants and judges to seed their socials and focus on exposing the singers on platforms like TikTok. “You can feel the energy from the TikTok crowd getting exposed to what AI is, through the casting process to while we were on air,” he says. “You might come into Idol as a TikTok star with 100,000 or one million followers, but you’re now on a platform where we can introduce you to millions more who haven’t even downloaded the app.”
One of the other keys was something the Idol team could never have planned for: the pandemic. When the show was forced to go remote for the live rounds in April suddenly viewers at home got a rare chance to see the singers (and the judges and host Ryan Seacrest) in their homes, surrounded by family and their stuff.
“It allowed viewed to get to know contestant in a way they haven’t been presented before,” says Davis of the intimate view that helped juice Idol‘s social numbers in 2020. “One of the most fun things was the immediate reaction on Twitter and looking at people’s comments when Julia Gargano was performing from her garage and the audience was trying to figure out if her garage looked like theirs. And when Louis Knight performed from his bedroom — he’s an emotional singer who wrote songs about his friend who passed — his youthful fanbase of guys and girls were like, ‘oooh! Louis’ bedroom!’ That was so fun, looking at the posters on his wall, seeing the families.”
After virtual auditions across the nation, Idol is slated to return to the air on February 14, 2021.